We Should Debate the Death Penalty, by Judge

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Byline: Aiden Corkery Political Reporter

ONE of our top former judges has called for the death penalty to be considered again.

Richard Johnson, who retired as president of the High Court last month, said the Government should look at reintroducing the death penalty, which was abolished in Irish law in 1990.

But his suggestion was quickly condemned as 'deeply misguided and frivolous' by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

A constitutional ban was placed on the death penalty in 2001, which means it would require a referendum for it to be reintroduced.

However, Mr Johnson said that the issue should be debated by the Irish public.

'The Government should look at it. Then if the people want it they should have it,' he said.

'I am not totally in favour of it. But it should be revisited.' He said there is a legitimate argument for reintroducing the death penalty for certain violent crimes.

'It would have to be for specific offences. If people arm up and go out to rob and decide to take out anyone who gets in their way they should pay the price. It should be a matter for each individual case,' he told The Irish Times.

But ICCL director Mark Kelly pointed out that a ban on the death penalty is a condition of Ireland's membership of both the EU and the Council of Europe.

'The death penalty is unlawful in every European Union and every Council of Europe State. If Ireland wished to re-introduce the death penalty, it could do so only at the cost of renouncing its membership of the European Union and the Council of Europe.' Mr Kelly added that he was very surprised that a former judge of Mr Johnson's standing would make such a suggestion. …